The ‘how to’ of collaborative transformation

By Josie Chambers

“Ok, that’s interesting, but HOW can that help me actually facilitate transformation in practice?”

I’ve asked this question. I’ve been asked it many times. The past two days have shown the possibilities are endless – an exciting yet daunting prospect. Here are some insights I’ve gathered so far from some of the many inspiring researchers at leverage points.

  1. “Phase 0 (i.e. the “setting up of the setting up”) was four years” – Andra-Iona Horcea-Milcu. The initial phase often requires long-term relations and trust to frame the work and allow safe spaces to mature.
  2. “Iterative development of collaborative methods based on feedback” – Ariane König. If the proposed methods are never critically examined, we limit how people can express themselves and risk reproducing the same visions for change.
  3. “Sustainability is not an answer but a question – what should be sustained or let go?” – Elizabeth Barron. Our role as researchers is not to make everyone think like we do but to embrace our own humility and learning.
  4. “There is no single solution; we must focus on multiple seeds and pathways for transformation” – Elena Bennett. An attempt to establish a hierarchy of solutions too soon can greatly narrow the scope for action.
  5. “Dia-Logos are the space in between more than one logic who think together” – Ariane König. Interweaving both diverse internal knowledges and external knowledges (and accepting, not simply trying to resolve emerging tensions) is important to promote critical examination of perspectives and assumptions.
  6. Transformational power exists in the emotional experience of being listened to and feeling valued. For example, Angela Morrigi’s carefully adapted photo-voice and walking interviews enabled participants with mental disabilities to express their voice. Her co-created photo album and memory box gifts fostered reciprocity and care.
  7. The politics of language matters. For example, by seeing “place” as “reactionary” (e.g. isolated with boundaries) versus “progressive” (e.g. relational to all outside places). – Elizabeth Barron.
  8. Power lies in “making the familiar seem unfamiliar”? – Kevin Collins. This social learning can emerge from experiencing situations in new ways that reveal interdependencies.
  9. “How do you find a new color?” – Claire Deschner. Radical and creative methods are needed to create alternative realities that can diverge farther from current realities.
  10. “The response by a participant that we did something serious here [in a game-playing context] was already an outcome” – Leo Reutter. The power of creative methods can require participants to first overcome barriers of lacking confidence in the method.
  11. “Finding relations of shared understanding from contradictions can help transcend individual perspectives and result in new frames of reference.” – Ariane König. This is an important part of establishing concrete action fields that join people together in new ways.
  1. Andra-Iona Horcea-Milcu’s leverage points work in Transylvania shows the power of valuing existing efforts and strengthening relationships to amplify and scale sustainability efforts for broader societal transformations.
  2. “Managing expectations is crucial. There is a struggle between the time it takes researchers to do what they want to do, and what other people want to do.” – Angela Morrigi
  3. “It is important to overcome the fear of failure early on” – Andra-Iona Horcea-Milcu. Martina Schäfer showed that this requires being reflexive and upfront about the interests and risks of all partners.
  4. Franziska Ehnert showed the importance of connecting bottom-up work to supportive top-down processes through institutionalized intermediaries and funding.

After this long list, you are probably still wondering – but really, HOW can I put some of these ideas into practice? Elena Bennett showed us in her keynote how even simple methods like “radical listening” can be a powerful initial step. A diverse and exciting range of options exist, with a few shared here:

  1. Ariane König introduced us to Collaborative Conceptual Modeling (CCM) – a tool to engage in relational thinking, establish influence diagrams, co-produce norms and values, and transform dialogue. This process always starts with participants sharing practical experiences.

CCM

By Newell and Proust 2017 (shared by Ariane König); methods details on pg. 17 of above link.

  1. Angela Morrigi showed us the power of Theory U in practice, and harvested this knowledge into an amazing toolkit of arts-based methods.

Theory U

By Pearson et al 2018 (co-produced and shared by Angela Morrigi)

  1. Jaco Quist introduced us to the complex world of participatory visioning to define problems and possibilities and mobilize actor-networks and narratives. He describes Community Arena Methodology, which involves transitions management, backcasting (i.e. working backwards to reach the desired vision or state), social learning, and operationalizing the inner context (i.e. everything that goes on inside individuals).

Transition management cycle

Wittmayer 2011; Adapted from Loorbach 2007, 2010

  1. Claire Deschner shared ethnographic theatre methods. She used mirroring exercises to build trust and put concepts into action to reveal their complex nature. For example, “care” was portrayed in a patronizing way (a pat on the head), which sparked discussion on how the transformative potential of care lies in understanding as an ethical and relational responsiveness and learning. Claire’s methods build on Augusto Boal’s The Theatre of the Oppressed and associated methods. Also based on these methods, the Forum Theatre performed a problem situation, where audience members could freeze the performance to intervene and change the series of events. This opened up dialogue over possibilities for transforming systems.

Putting these (and sother) collaborative methods into practice requires much more than the theories and manuals. Here the art of facilitation becomes especially critical – whether taken on by a researcher or professional. At leverage points, I’ve been introduced to a number of wonderful training opportunities – both online or in person – to advance these skills. For example, 1) Art of hosting – http://www.artofhosting.org/, 2) Presencing Institute – https://www.presencing.org/aboutus, 3) Theatre of the Oppressed – https://www.tonyc.nyc/workshops, 4) Changemakers – https://www.changemakers.com/. I hope to take advantage of some of these trainings to develop a sense of methodological bricolage myself to draw upon diverse methods and ideas to adaptively navigate complex and emergent processes of transformation.

The final question which has come up so often in discussions is – But do these methods REALLY lead to transformation, and what kinds of transformations?

The general sense is that we are far behind in our efforts to assess transformation outcomes. This is perhaps in part due to the legitimate concern of how a focus on solutions and outcomes could compromise the process quality. However, many expressed a desire to better understand both process and impacts to evaluate how we see and do our work.

We need better ways of following learning journeys, such as through Jennifer Rao-William’s creative use of metaphors. Do people see themselves as drivers or passengers throughout the process? As Jess Cockburn asked, “should we be navigating towards a destination or just trying to avoid all of the icebergs?” To better understand impacts, we need methods for tracking how understandings are reframed, and that reframing becomes linked to changes in actions over time.

Hopefully this whistle-stop tour through the “how to” of collaborative transformation in some spaces of the leverage points conference will spark some new ideas for how we each think about and do our work. I look forward to seeing how conversations and insights continue to evolve beyond the conference space!

Josie_photo

Josie Chambers

Josie Chambers is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge. She is broadly interested in the implications of different approaches to environmental governance, and recently investigated the role of diverse collaborative approaches as a postdoctoral researcher with the Luc Hoffmann Institute. She holds a PhD in Geography and MPhil in Conservation Leadership from the University of Cambridge, an MSc in Integrated Resource Management from the University of Edinburgh and a BSc in Integrative Biology from the University of Illinois.

 

Dancing with the system

By Maraja Riechers

I am exceptionally bad at navigating. When I come out of a restaurant after dinner I occasionally do not remember where I came from and I even can get lost in my home town (which at one point had more cows than people). What is more, complexity often overwhelms me. Not, that complexity is something negative, and complexity does not need to be complicated. But sometimes it is just a bit, well, a bit too much for me.

Being exposed to all the information, warnings, pitfalls, details, conceptual and theoretical nuances, disciplinary expert knowledge and jargon, I feel immensely incapable of coping with its totality. Rather, I am acutely aware of my own knowledge gaps, shortcomings and limitations. In this chaos I am looking for perspectives that show me patterns, structures, something that helps me acknowledge the messiness, yet giving me tools to handle it (be it just for a while, until the patterns fade and I need to shift to a new perspective).

So, what I am saying is, I would be completely incapable of navigating our metaphorical ship through a sea of complexity. I would not even know where to start. And while navigating complexity was our main topic at the Leverage Conference 2019 today, I felt, that I was not the only one being reluctant.

Petra Kuenkel said that navigating complexity for her is more a collective stewardship that includes a self-organisation of diversity. Collective in a sense that there are shared responsibilities, maybe even shared values or ideas, based on a notion of care, kindness and openness (i.e. a feminist perspective, shout-out to the great talk by Elisa Oteros-Rozas). Enabling self-organisation in the design of a system may give room for diverse voice to be heard, new ideas being brought in, innovation being fostered and new methods co-created. There is power in difference and conflict; contrasting opinions are healthy and valuable, and compassionate critique should be encouraged. I would rather embrace the differences we have, agree to disagree, but also agree to understand and acknowledge and accept.

Donella Meadows spoke about dancing with the systems – we all collectively push and pull the system in our desirable direction, but none of us can see or control where we are actually going. But by fostering diversity, with time, trust and a lot of translation we might be able to avoid false consensus but embrace a fair and mutual dialogue that can guide us into a sustainable future.

When it comes to complexity, it is not about understanding it. I, personally, do not need an ever more complicated model that tries to capture all variables to predict outcomes. Models are useful, but never a depiction of reality. And I, personally, do not need to understand complexity. I will never be able to do that – but the process of trying to understand it, by shifting perspectives to see patterns and structure in the chaos helps me to learn from it. And to overcome my feeling of being overwhelmed so that I regain my ability to act.

For a while now the leverage points perspective gives me lenses to look through, to see and understand patterns. I may focus on deeper, underlying, domains for intervention – those that are often overlooked but somehow drive the chaos in the system. Or I can zoom out a bit and focus on the interactions between shallow, that is material or process based system components and the intention and design of the system. If I need to understand causality, I can use the leverage points perspective to help me acknowledge how we got here (the flows, feedback loops that reinforce our system) – but I can also use it to envision a future in which the intent and design of the system might be based around goals of environmental justice and equity.

In my eyes, transformation and contradiction is at the core of complexity. Let’s navigate the complexity together, self-organised, in a collective stewardship. 1000 eyes and hands and feet all pushing and pulling and dancing with a system. All with a vision of a good life. And while we do not know where we will end up, we value the process along the way.

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The great interconnections wall by our amazing graphic facilitation team!

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Maraja Riechers

Maraja Riechers is a PostDocs in the leverage points project here at the Leuphana University. My research focusses on human-nature connectedness, relational values, human-wildlife conflicts and landscape change – all with a leverage points perspective.

Your journey to inner transformation

By Zuzana Harmackova

When it comes to transformations towards sustainability, focusing on policies, strategies and actions is not enough. What we need equally importantly are the deep, individual leverage points of transformation– those related to Inner Transformation.

Remember reading all the cool conference blogs? Now imagine you get the chance to write one… and what is more, at a conference on a really exciting topic – the Leverage Points of transformation towards sustainability. There is one problem, though. You are a terrible writer.

The session on Inner Transformation is your number one choice (you feel that this is exactly what you need). You are waiting for the start, in a room packed with people just as curious as you are. While the session chair Stella Veciana does a great job demonstrating that a raised hand means a signal for silence (a skill mastered by all of us later during the plenary), this is actually never needed since the room is totally focused from the first moment…

…for a good reason. Since this session gives you a great opportunity to rethink deeper whatever you (foolishly) believed you have thought through deep enough before. And it lively illustrates that leveraging transformative change can emerge from perspectives you might have disregarded in the hustle of figuring out quick practical solutions.

First, you dive into a short meditation with Jessica Böhme, guiding you directly to the question what you see as your life contribution. However daring, this question links directly to the key point of her presentation that when we talk about political, societal and ecological transformations, we often forget that they grow from a personal dimension – personal knowledge, beliefs and assumptions – which drive our actions and their far-reaching consequences.
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According to: Jessica Böhme

Later on, Chris Ives shares lessons learned from interviews with worlds’ faith leaders, illustrating which leverage points to a systems transformation can be accessed through religion, including changing worldviews, forming institutions and initiating practical actions in the society.
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By: Christopher Ives

Finally, a series of three linked presentations by Stella Veciana, Oliver Parodi and Kaidi Tamm shows that while we tend to distinguish between our inner and outer world, they are both inter-related and have an equal influence on the sustainability of the world around us. Therefore, the (commonly overlooked) inner dimensions of transformation needs to receive much more of our attention, since that is where our thoughts, values, needs, wishes, emotions and habits are formed, which then shape the visions, plans and actions we take.

Most importantly, they emphasise that if we want to reach a transformation, we first need to take time to talk to each other, ask the right questions, and try to earn each other’s understanding, respect and trust, which is the only path leading to a long-lasting change in our perspectives, attitudes and actions. For that, what we vitally need is the freedom to experiment and co-create new knowledge through shared experience.
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By: Stella Veciana

By that time, the concentration in the room is so intensive that the only thing distracting the collective focus is your frantic typing, trying to catch everyone’s insights. (Remember people taking photos of all the slides? That’s you.)

The discussion afterwards takes uninterrupted forty minutes and lasts well into the coffee break (a trustworthy measure of a session success). Among many interesting points, the need to stop understanding own inner vulnerability as a weakness is raised – what we need instead is to find the courage to put aside pretending, perfection and certainty, and find a way to connect with others and the world we live in.

Later that evening at your blog-draft, it becomes clear that you have not reached an inner transformation to a brilliant writer this time. But still. You have experimented. Experienced new ways of thinking. Exposed own vulnerability (and writer’s block). And most importantly – you know you still have two more days of the Leverage Points 2019 conference to ask more about Inner Transformation.

 

Zuzana

Zuzana Harmackova

Zuzana is a postdoctoral researcher at Stockholm Resilience Centre. Her research focuses on a comparative analysis of resilience indicators across case studies, future participatory scenarios and social-ecological aspects of ecosystem services provision. She has been involved in the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), currently working on an assessment of values in future scenarios within the IPBES Assessment on Diverse Conceptualization of Values.

Feeling naked

By Maraja Riechers

It was a more random line that Elena Bennett said in her plenary session this morning: “I feel naked without a pointer and presentation, but I will just go with it”. Feeling naked and exposed, in unusual, uncomfortable, honest and authentic situations. Embracing this feeling struck me as important, because today at the Leverage Points 2019 conferences it was all about exploring the notion of deep and neglected leverage points. By deep leverage points, we mean primarily those that tackle the systems design – such as re-defining the goal of the system, its information flow or self-organisation – and those that tackle the intent of the system – changing mind-sets and transcending paradigms.

But what does that mean for us? Digging deep. Transcending paradigms.

For me, it means we have to strip us barren from paradigms that we hold on to, which comfort us, and keep us in a system that is in need of urgent transformation. It means we have to question ourselves, our goals, our dreams and daily routines. It means questionning others. And for us scientists it means questioning our research.

What looking for deep and neglected leverage points definitively does not mean is using the same old paradigms, the same old research methods (that have long been proven valid and reliable), and putting another label on it. It is the end of the world as we know it, as Ioan Fazey repeatedly stated. We need to sit down a moment, take a breath, open your eyes and mind – and acknowledge, with great humility, the changes happening all around us.

This is what we are facing. This is what is currently happening.

And now we need to act.

 

What I took with me from the sessions and the plenaries, was a need for a passionate, urgent and transformative research, research which focusses on care, justice, trust and real-world impact (not measureable by an Impact Factor). To also ask and answer the questions: From whom can we learn? Whose voice is missing?

There is no magic bullet, no quick fix – and looking for deep leverage points is not offering that. A leverage points perspectives invites you to look deeper, to ask difficult questions: What are we trying to achieve here? What are the right things to do? How do we govern? What economic paradigm do we want (and how can we replace our old one)? But just having a good lens to be able to concentrate on those changes does not mean that assessing them, or even finding a leverage point for transformation, will be easy. The leverage points perspective can be an analytical tool, a metaphor or a methodological boundary object to capture the complexity of a system and its wicked problems. It will not provide an easy answer, this complexity defies an easy answer (even though it is tempting when faced with all the complexity). Feeling naked is not easy. It can be uncomfortable, exposing, hurtful, shameful – and maybe we have to actively look for exactly those situations that make us feel naked, to gain more reflexivity, new perspectives, and new knowledge.

Those difficult questions cannot be answered by pure fact-based knowledge alone; we also need to strive for wisdom; To discover a different, deeper kind of truth. And this process may already has great power and great humility. Yet, this process needs extra effort from us because we are working against the current system, and we will experience backlash. We as researcher need to openly confront an academic system (especially in sustainability science) that is hindering us to do impactful transformative research, we need to openly confront an economic paradigm on which our income depends, and we need to openly confront our knowledge system on which our self-identification depends.

Breath in.

Open your mind.

And embrace the feeling.

 

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Maraja Riechers

Maraja Riechers is a PostDocs in the leverage points project here at the Leuphana University. My research focusses on human-nature connectedness, relational values, human-wildlife conflicts and landscape change – all with a leverage points perspective.

Keynote at Leverage Points 2019: Elena Bennett

Ideas for Sustainability

Elena Bennett was our second keynote speaker this morning. Elena spoke of the role of “narrative” in bringing about societal transformation. Narratives should be inspiring and plausible – and they need to help us link tangible actions to ambitious targets.

Science at its best, Elena argued, needed to tell a good story about how the world works. One branch of science, Elena argued, had been particularly useful in this context, namely the branch of “scenario development”. Scenario approaches have been influential in many sustainability contexts by now – Elena mentioned, for instance, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, as well as scenarios developed around the lakes of Wisconsin. Scenarios work on the notion of “what if” … getting people to think about how things might turn out under different circumstances.

Despite scenario work having been prominent and powerful in numerous sustainability contexts, Elena highlighted three possible weaknesses. First, scenarios to date have…

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Keynote at Leverage Points 2019: Ioan Fazey

Ideas for Sustainability

“It’s the end of the world as we know it” … with these words, Ioan Fazey began his opening keynote lecture to Leverage Points 2019. With everything changing, faster than ever before — what is our role in this? What does it mean to be a knowledge producer? Either, we will have massive transformations because of “natural” processes; or we will ourselves instigate a more mindful kind of transformation, in order to avoid some of the less desirable outcomes.

IMG_4687 Photo by Ioan Fazey: Playing Giants, Fairies and Wizards in rural communities, Solomon Islands

Ioan moved on to show examples of how climate change, for example, will affect us, focusing on the city of New Orleans. Here, climate change is not a problem of the future, but rather of the present, with some communities already being displaced. A combination of human caused factors, here, leads to “land loss”, and in addition…

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Let’s begin: Leverage Points 2019 Conference

The Leverage Points 2019 conference is about to start today (Tuesday 5. Feb. from 19:00-21:00) with an ice-breaker event! You are of course cordially invited! It will take place in the Forum space of the new central building at Leuphana University, where we will provide food drinks (non-alcoholic) and entertainment in the form of the band Brass Riot. This is an opportunity, to relax, meet old friends and make new ones.

We are all very excited about the upcoming events, and we will keep you all posted here on the blog and on twitter. You can follow us on @LevPointsfSus and using the #leverage2019.

Our blog will be filled with great reflections on upcoming sessions and the general themes of the day. We are proud to have an excellent team of bloggers on board:

Zuzana Harmackova is a postdoctoral researcher at Stockholm Resilience Centre. Her research focuses on a comparative analysis of resilience indicators across case studies, future participatory scenarios and social-ecological aspects of ecosystem services provision. She has been involved in the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), currently working on an assessment of values in future scenarios within the IPBES Assessment on Diverse Conceptualization of Values.

Josie Chambers is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge. She is broadly interested in the implications of different approaches to environmental governance, and recently investigated the role of diverse collaborative approaches as a postdoctoral researcher with the Luc Hoffmann Institute. She holds a PhD in Geography and MPhil in Conservation Leadership from the University of Cambridge, an MSc in Integrated Resource Management from the University of Edinburgh and a BSc in Integrative Biology from the University of Illinois.

Vicky Temperton is a Professor of ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services here at Leuphana university. Some of the core questions, Vicky is tackling, are 1) How can we counter current biodiversity loss, whilst also al­lo­wing for food security and adequate livelihoods and social interactions? And 2) What role can the restoration of biodiversity play in counteracting biodiversity loss, whilst helping to mitigate climate change and providing new forms of social and economic livelihood?

Well, and me (Maraja Riechers), I am one of the many PostDocs in the leverage points project here at the Leuphana University. My research focusses on human-nature connectedness, relational values, human-wildlife conflicts and landscape change – all with a leverage points perspective. Check out our new paper in people and nature: A leverage points perspective on sustainability.

Post your comments and thoughts on twitter and subscribe to the blog to get the latest updates on the conference!

See you soon!

 

Taking a fresh look at sustainability via a “leverage points perspective”

Ideas for Sustainability

By Joern Fischer & Maraja Riechers

Have you ever wondered why, with all the science, and all the talk of sustainability, the world still seems to be going the wrong way? – One explanation is that we’ve done plenty of things, but … perhaps not the right things. A leverage points perspective is emerging as a new analytical lens to tackle sustainability problems. We summarize what this perspective can do for sustainability in our new paper in People & Nature; and from 6-8 February a leverage points perspective will take centre stage at the inaugural international conference “Leverage Points 2019” at Leuphana University Lueneburg, Germany.

lppeopleandnature A leverage points perspective on sustainability.

The idea of leverage points as such is not new to people working on complex systems, such as social-ecological systems. However, the idea of a “leverage points perspective” is more than just recognizing that we…

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Food Democracy Now! The Second Networking Congress of German Food Policy Councils

By Annelie Sieveking

This blog post reports back from the second networking congress of German food policy councils, which was held this year, between 23rd and 25th of November, in Frankfurt, Hesse. This event brought together food policy council (FPC) initiatives from all Germany and its neighbor countries Austria, Luxemburg, Netherlands and Switzerland. The FPC initiatives from the German-speaking countries and regions met for the first time in 2017 (for more details see my blog on “The beginning of a new food movement in Essen” from November 2017). In the meantime, more FPCs were established, e.g. in the cities of Munich or Freiburg, and the number continues to rise. Currently we can talk about around 40 different FPC initiatives that are emerging in German-speaking countries and regions.

About 150 participants joined this event in Frankfurt with the aim of (1) exchanging experiences that they gathered in the early stages of formation of FPCs, and (2) learning from more experienced experts, while (3) strengthening their networking activities. Having accompanied the emergence of one of the first German FPCs in the city of Oldenburg, Lower Saxony as part of my PhD work in the Leverage Points project for 2,5 years now, it was interesting to see the ongoing dynamic as regards new initiatives, but also to hear participants raising concerns about internal challenges and the initiatives´ real-word impact on policymaking.

As a pre-event to the congress, the organizers invited everyone to the Museum für Kochkunst und Tafelkultur (Museum for Culinary Art and Dining Culture), where the attendees were offered locally produced food and drinks such as Ebbelwoi und Handkäs (apple wine and a specific cheese). This evening wasn´t only about getting a sense of local food culture, but also about discussing food production and consumption patterns with Nik Hampel, a farmer from the region.

The congress, taking place at Frankfurt´s Dominican Monastery, officially started on Saturday morning, with two rousing welcoming speeches by two policymakers. First, Priska Hinz, the state of Hessen’s Minster of Environment, Climate Protection, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, summarized the activities at state level related to transforming the current food system, such as strong promotion of organic farming (which currently represents 14,5 percent of all agricultural land in Hesse) or long-term funding for the Vernetzungsstelle Schulverpflegung, a network on school catering. The second speech was by Rosemarie Heilig, head of the Department for Environment and Women in Frankfurt, who stressed the importance of cities to be involved in the formation of FPCs. As patroness of the FPC Frankfurt, she is very in favour of the initiative´s goals and tries to support them as much as she can, e.g. in the current budget negotiations at city level. Both policymakers referred to an emerging trend that motivates them to take action: More and more citizens seem to be concerned about food and would like to know how their food is produced and where it comes from.

In a keynote speech, Olivier de Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food (2008-2014) and Co-Chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) also welcomed the congress´ participants. He expressed his fascination for seeing the FPC movement now reaching the European continent. From his point of view, there are three presumed dichotomies/challenges that seem to be relevant for FPCs: The one between invented and invited spaces, the one between representative and participatory democracy, and the one between non-profit logic and economic logic. De Schutter recommended the initiatives to “make an exercise in political imagination”: Building on the combined knowledge of the different actors involved in FPCs, this exercise might lead to new forms that benefit from the coexistence of the three dichotomies. The moderators of the congress tried to relate de Schutter´s input to the initiatives present at the congress. Referring to the dichotomy between invented and invited spaces, they asked for a show of hands indicating who initiated the council´s formation: The majority indicated being initiated by civil society instead of being invited by policymakers.

This grassroots spirit became even more apparent when individuals from 38 FPC initiatives briefly summarized their current work and their local experiences in a two-hour storytelling session. This presentation confirmed my overall observation that – since the first congress in Essen last year – on the one hand many initiatives intensified their activities and several new initiatives started their work. On the other hand, some initiatives are facing struggles with regard to the acquisition of funding or internal structures. As one member of the initiative in Gießen put it: “We are now trying a second start”.  Also in my case study on the FPC in Oldenburg, the structures created roughly a year ago when they established the council are currently under reconsideration and just a week ago, the council representatives agreed on some changes to facilitate the workflow within the council. For these initiatives, the Beratungsmodul (consulting module), provided by the Institut für Welternährung (World Nutrition Institute), might be a supporting tool. Based on the initiatives´ individual needs, the project team offers workshops in the next months to come, e.g. on internal communication or recruitment of new members.

Open space discussion on Saturday.jpg

Open space discussion on Saturday. copyright: Ernährungsrat Frankfurt

 

As the FPC movement in Germany is still comparably young, learning from international experts remains an important source of knowledge and guidance for the initiatives. Lori Stahlbrand from FPC Toronto, Canada, illustrated how FPCs can have an impact at city level and, reversely, what food can do for cities. In Toronto, they don´t only run a number of community projects but also launched a comprehensive food strategy. Despite all success, Lori also gave a warning to the newcomers on the European continent: It might be difficult to change existing structures and not all favoured policies might be implemented in the end. She stressed the importance of pursuing different strategies at the same time: Striving for changing structures and promoting pilot projects. Kenneth Heigaard from Copenhagen House of Food in Denmark presented one impressive flagship project on promoting organic food in public canteens.

How to shape public catering, especially in schools and kindergartens was also one of the manifold topics that were discussed during the open-space sessions on Saturday and Sunday. Participants from about ten FPC initiatives discussed their local approaches, for example the Bio-Regio-Woche, recently launched by the FPC Berlin, where local caterers served about 250.000 meals based on organic food from the region at schools in the city of Berlin. Having the inspiring experiences from Denmark in mind, the participants of the open-space session wondered if they should also pursue a more radical approach instead of slowly adapting existing school food requirements, which can be frustrating as some participants reported. Among them, there was consensus that it is not only necessary to change the canteen food as such. They consider education and raising awareness as key elements to initiating a transformation. Here, FPCs could potentially help bringing different stakeholders together. Also in my case study in Oldenburg, improving school food came up as an issue during the emergence of the council. Currently, they participate in the development of a new concept for school catering the city of Oldenburg.

Closing plenary on Sunday.jpg

Final plenary on Sunday. copyright: Ernährungsrat Frankfurt

 

After having discussed many more topics in the open-space sessions, the congress participants gathered for a last plenary to adopt the Frankfurter Erklärung (Frankfurt´s declaration). For Jörg Weber from the hosting FPC in Frankfurt the congress was a big success: First, “because the networking between the existing initiatives could be strengthened”, and second, “because we raised some public awareness for our concerns through our first common declaration entitled Ernährungsdemokratie jetzt (Food Democracy Now)”. This title also speaks to the existing academic discourse on food democracy: Hassanein, one important representative, sees FPCs as “a concrete example of a deliberate attempt to develop the practice of food democracy” (2003, p. 79). In my PhD research on FPCs, I am currently investigating how food democracy played out in the emergence of the FPC in Oldenburg.

 

Reference:

Hassanein, N. (2003). Practicing food democracy: A pragmatic politics of transformation. Journal of Rural Studies, 19(1), 77–86.

Skilful conversations for integration

Community member post by Rebecca Freeth and Liz Clarke

Interdisciplinary collaboration to tackle complex problems is challenging! In particular, interdisciplinary communication can be very difficult – how do we bridge the gulf of mutual incomprehension when we are working with people who think and talk so very differently from us? What skills are required when mutual incomprehension escalates into conflict, or thwarts decision making on important issues?

It is often at this point that collaborations lose momentum. In the absence of constructive or productive exchange, working relationships stagnate and people retreat to the places where they feel safest: their own disciplines, their offices, or the colleagues who are on their ‘side’. As a consequence, prospects for meaningful collaboration and integration dwindle.

Continue reading at https://i2insights.org/2018/11/06/skilful-integration-conversations/.